A great thing about travel is that it is all-encompassing. It engages every part of your body and all five of your senses. When I try to recall a past trip to somewhere I’ve been, the first thing that pops into my mind is usually what the place looked like. However, my visual memory is quickly followed by more in-depth sensory memories — what it smelled like, what I heard, what I felt, what the food tasted like.
Some cities have distinct smells (see below for a couple examples), some cities have certain sounds that are distinctly theirs and others are famous for a specific cuisine. Being aware of all five of your senses when traveling allows you to soak up more of your surroundings, and it makes it easier and more fun to remember those places in the future.
I thought back on my travels and went through all five senses — what are the smells I’ll never forget? The sounds? The feelings? The sights? The tastes? Below are some of my most memorable.
1. Sulfur (Rotorua, New Zealand): Rotorua is a town on the North Island of New Zealand. It’s famous for its geothermal activity — geysers, geothermal pools, etc. But all of that comes at a price: the entire city of Rotorua smells of sulfur. And not just a little bit, a lot. Like, when we flew in from Queenstown I could smell the sulfur in the plane once we entered Rotorua’s airspace. The air smelled, the tap water smelled, I smelled. Some places in the city smelled more strongly than others, especially when you got closer to a geyser or hot spring. However, I got semi-used to the smell after about a day. I still noticed it, but it didn’t bother me as much. One of our tour guides who had lived in Rotorua for a year said he didn’t even notice it at all anymore.
2. Canals (Venice, Italy): Venice has a reputation of being stinky due to dirty water in its many canals. I don’t really remember finding this to be true when I was there, but I do remember the city had a unique smell. It smelled like a city that was, well, surrounded by water — a salty, algae-infused scent. It wasn’t a bad smell, but it was very memorable.
3. Incense at temples and shrines (Japan, China, Thailand): In nearly all of the Asian countries I’ve been to we’ve visited some type of temple or shrine. These usually have incense that guests can burn. Incense have a very strong and distinct smell (especially because I don’t particularly like it.)
1. Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral (London, England): I have visited many churches and synagogues in my travels, but I’ve not been able to observe a real service in many of them. I was lucky to be able to sit in on a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral during our trip to London. We attended the Evensong service, which was mostly music. The choir sang beautifully, and I remember how majestic and resonant it sounded in that gorgeous church.
2. “A-train-is-coming” warning bells (Melbourne, Australia): If there is one sound I’ll remember from my internship this past summer, it is this. The trains in Melbourne crossed streets, so every time a train was approaching, barriers would swing out to block cars from moving, and these very loud bell sounds would go off. Those bells sometimes had me running to the station in the morning if I was a minute or two late, and they were also the bane of my existence if I was trying to cross a street.
1. Colorful coral and marine wildlife (Great Barrier Reef, Australia): While visiting Carins, my mom and I took a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We went on a guided snorkeling tour once we got out on the reef. This was my first time snorkeling and I was incredibly excited to be doing it somewhere so amazing. Seeing the endless stretches of colorful coral and countless fish with my own eyes was indescribable. It really opened my eyes to the fact that there’s this whole gigantic and beautiful world under the sea that I rarely get to see.
2. Terracotta Warriors (Xian, China): I knew about the Terracotta Warriors before visiting China (one of the Magic Tree House books I’d read featured them), but was totally unprepared for just how impressive they would be in person. The Terracotta Warriors are known as being one of the most phenomenal archaeological discoveries in history. There are rows upon rows of hand-carved, life-size statues and horses that were made to defend the tomb of one of China’s early emperors. It was amazing to stand there, looking out over all the rows of clay soldiers, and think that it was all buried underground at one point.
3. Sunsets in Santorini (Santorini, Greece): I’ve seen many gorgeous sunsets in my travels, but I think Santorini takes the crown in this department. This Greek island is world famous for its sunsets. Look up any list of “World’s Best Sunsets” and Santorini is most likely on there. We saw sunsets from several different spots on the island while we were there, but the best one was definitely at Oia, a small town on the island. Everyone flocks to Oia to catch the sunsets because it has the most picturesque backdrop: white-washed houses, windmills, boats in the distance. The prime sunset-watching area in Oia was packed with tourists, and after Mother Nature’s show was over, everyone applauded.
1. Getting sprayed by waterfalls (Iguazu Falls, Brazil): Iguazu Falls are an incredible set of waterfalls on the Argentina-Brazil border. It’s one of the most famous waterfall systems in the world. We stayed on the Argentina side, but took a day tour over to the Brazil side to see the falls from a different angle. (Argentina’s side is known for being able to get closer to the falls, Brazil’s side is known for having better wide views.) While on the Brazil side, we walked out on this platform that took you in the middle of a circle of roaring waterfalls. My mom and I were wearing ponchos (thank goodness), but still got soaked!
2. Freezing cold temperatures while waiting for the Today Show (New York, New York): On one of our trips to the Big Apple, my mom and I decided to go visit the Today Show (it’s our favorite morning news show.) We had to get there around 5:30 a.m. to get a good spot in the front, but the show didn’t start till 7. So we were waiting around outside for over an hour and it was freezing cold, like actually below freezing. However, it was bearable because I was so excited, and because staff members handed out free Today Show hand warmers to everyone waiting on the Plaza.
3. Dripping with sweat at the Acropolis (Athens, Greece): Opposite of the Today Show experience, one of the hottest memories I have of traveling is the day my mom and I climbed up to the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. It was the middle of July and in the upper 90s with lots of humidity. It was the kind of heat where you were drenched in sweat the moment you stepped outside. And hiking up to the Acropolis in crowds of tourists didn’t make it any better. But seeing the magnificent Acropolis up close was definitely worth it (even if we did look sweaty and gross in our pictures.)
(Please note: I spared you from having to read about my Queenstown paragliding experience again, but it definitely was one of those feelings I’ll never forget.)
I already made an entire blog post last semester about my “Most Memorable Meals Around the World,” but here are some tastes that I didn’t include in that list.
1. Pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation (Honolulu, Hawaii): When I went with my high school marching band to Hawaii, we visited the Dole Plantation. It was really neat to see the fields with endless pineapple plants. We also spent a significant amount of time in the huge gift shop complex. Never in my life have I seen so many pineapple-themed things: pineapple shirts, pineapple keychains, pineapple bottle openers, pineapple pencils, I could go on and on. But the best part for me was definitely the pineapple cafe place. I got a delicious pineapple soft serve ice cream and it was amazing. I wouldn’t have thought pineapple ice cream would taste as good as it did (especially considering I don’t like pineapples all that much), but it was heavenly.
2. Brazilian cheese bread (Argentina & Brazil): When my mom and I visited Argentina and Brazil, I kept noticing restaurants serving these small little bread balls. The inside was kind of chewy and full of deliciousness. I had no idea what these little balls of scrumptiousness were, I just knew I loved them and couldn’t get enough. We had them in Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Rio de Janeiro. Fast forward a bit to when my mom and I are back home and watching the TV show Shark Tank — there was a pitch for these things called “Brazi Bites,” which were described as the cheese bread that is famous in Brazil and South America that people could now make at home (!!!) Who knew a small ball of cheesy bread could make me so happy.